Time and again, town will remember her Dying wish was clock for Sharpsburg square

January 03, 1998|By PETER JENSEN | PETER JENSEN,SUN STAFF

SHARPSBURG -- If time heals all wounds, then maybe a clock can mend a loss.

Two months ago, Roy Ebersole's wife, Pansy, was lying in a nursing home, dying of a degenerative disease. Her only request to her husband: Give Sharpsburg a clock for the town square.

No one knows why the 79-year-old wanted the timepiece. Not her husband, her other relatives or her closest friends.

But within two weeks of her death, Mr. Ebersole, 80, had a friend notify the town that he wanted to give it a clock. Sharpsburg officials couldn't believe their good fortune.

"It's an exciting thing for everyone involved," said George E. Kesler, mayor of the historic Washington County town of 680. "I don't think the town's ever had a gift like this before."

The clock -- 15 feet 6 inches tall and weighing half a ton -- will be placed in the spring on a brick sidewalk outside the town office. Dark green with gold-leaf edging, the Victorian post clock is of a late 19th century design. Its antique look seems well-suited to a town best known as the home of the Civil War's Antietam National Battlefield.

The mayor and Town Council had never considered buying a clock, chiefly because of its cost. Sharpsburg's annual budget, $145,000, supports four part-time town employees.

When Kesler notified the family that buying a town clock would cost $15,000, Roy Ebersole didn't flinch. He just wrote the check.

"I was amazed," said Kesler, who owns a general store in Sharpsburg.

Those who knew Mrs. Ebersole were not surprised by her generosity or by Roy Ebersole's devotion to his wife. The couple had a history of giving-- from the farm-picked fruit and vegetables they dispensed to neighbors to their donations to Sharpsburg Church of the Brethren and the Christmas gifts they handed out to the most casual acquaintances.

'Giving person'

"Pansy was a giving person," said Mary Anna Munch, 76, a lifelong friend who helped arrange the clock donation. "She would do anything she could for you."

Born in nearby Williamsport, Mrs. Ebersole grew up in Sharpsburg and lived her whole life in Washington County. Her love of travel, particularly bus tours, earned her the nickname "Roadrunner."

Most people in town knew her. Many bought the fresh eggs she sold out of the couple's modest ranch-style home at the north end of town. The Ebersoles held a huge July Fourth picnic for family and friends each year.

A former switchboard operator at the Maryland Correctional Institution, the state prison in Hagerstown, Mrs. Ebersole was known not only for her acts of kindness, but for her plain-spokenness.

"If you did something she wondered about, she wasn't shy about pointing it out to you," said Munch.

Married 16 years

Mrs. Ebersole was married for 44 years to Roy's cousin, Howard Ebersole. They had no children. When he died in 1979, she started keeping company with Roy Ebersole, a quiet bachelor who had once said he would marry only if he could find a woman like her.

They married 16 years ago. Two years ago, she started having problems with low blood pressure and weakness in her limbs. The condition was diagnosed as Shy-Drager syndrome, a rare, fatal and incurable nerve disease.

Mrs. Ebersole moved into a nursing home in March. She died Oct. 6.

"She was a good person," Mr. Ebersole said. "I was never one for running around and doing things until I met her."

Two strokes and hearing loss have made it harder for Mr. Ebersole to talk, and he needs a cane to help him walk.

But that didn't prevent the retired dairy farmer from giving out 55 pounds of Russell Stover chocolates this Christmas to town residents including his pharmacist and members of the staff at his doctor's office. And he still shops, with the help of neighbors, friends and relatives who look out for him.

"It's hard on him," said Nancy Ebersole, whose husband is Mr. Ebersole's nephew. "He's doing as well as can be expected."

Mrs. Ebersole kept many clocks around the house: a grandfather, a cuckoo, several antiques and a digital model on top of the television. But the one that means the most to her husband won't arrive until May.

The Sharpsburg clock will bear a plaque dedicating it to Mrs. Ebersole. It will be her legacy to the town, a way of remembering her life and good works.

"She asked me if I'd put up a clock for her, and I said I would," Mr. Ebersole said. "I'm just glad the people in Sharpsburg are pleased with it."

Pub Date: 1/03/98

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